Because appointments can be brief, and there’s often a lot of information to discuss, it’s a good idea to be well-prepared. Here’s some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
- 5 Ways to Control Ulcerative Colitis Pain
- How to Define Ulcerative Colitis Pain
- How to Manage Ulcerative Colitis Pain
- 5 Ways To Ease Ulcerative Colitis Pain
- Where does ulcerative colitis pain come from?
- What to look for when you have ulcerative colitis pain
- Five tips for dealing with ulcerative colitis pain
- What Are the Complications of Ulcerative Colitis?
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there’s anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Note down any symptoms you’re experiencing, even if they seem unrelated to the reason you have scheduled the appointment.
- Make a note of key personal information, including things like recent life changes, or major stresses.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you’re taking. Be sure to let your doctor know if you’re taking any herbal preparations, as well.
- Ask a family member or friend to come with you. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time can help you make the most of your time. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For ulcerative colitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What’s the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any prescription or over-the-counter medications I need to avoid?
- What sort of follow-up care do I need? How often do I need a colonoscopy?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there certain foods I can’t eat anymore?
- Will I be able to keep working?
- Can I have children?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you’re prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you have abdominal pain?
- Have you had diarrhea? How often?
- Have you recently lost any weight unintentionally?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Have you ever experienced liver problems, hepatitis or jaundice?
- Have you had any problems with your joints, eyes, skin rashes or sores, or had sores in your mouth?
- Do you awaken from sleep during the night because of diarrhea?
- Have you recently traveled? If so, where?
- Is anyone else in your home sick with diarrhea?
- Have you taken antibiotics recently?
- Do you regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve)?
5 Ways to Control Ulcerative Colitis Pain
A combination of short-term medications and longer-term surgeries can help people manage ulcerative colitis symptoms. Sean Prior/Alamy
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Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, unpredictable condition that can affect people differently. Some people can go years without symptoms, while others struggle with frequent flares and terrible pain.
But people with ulcerative colitis can take some control over their abdominal pain and other symptoms. Taking medication, eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and dealing with stress and depression can all help reduce the chances that a flare will occur, says Sunanda V. Kane, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Here are some more ways to manage your symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
How to Define Ulcerative Colitis Pain
The first step in managing abdominal pain from ulcerative colitis is pinpointing what, exactly, is triggering your symptoms. “Treatment of pain is best when the cause is found and addressed,” Dr. Kane says.
To help your doctor figure out what’s causing your abdominal pain and other symptoms, you need to be able to accurately describe the sensation. Before seeing your doctor, take stock of what you’re feeling. It may be useful to keep a colitis symptom journal to write down what you are experiencing. Be ready to describe:
- How long you’ve had your pain
- Where you feel your pain
- How it feels, both in sensation and intensity
- Frequency and duration of pain
- What things seem to trigger your abdominal pain
“The more specific you can be about your pain, the better,” Kane says.
You should also be prepared to talk with your doctor about any negative emotions you might be feeling — especially if you believe you might have depression, which can make existing pain worse, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
How to Manage Ulcerative Colitis Pain
Once you’ve described your pain accurately, your doctor will likely be able to track down the cause of your pain and begin treating it. Methods of pain management that have been shown to help people with ulcerative colitis include:
Sticking to your prescribed medication regimen is the best way to control ulcerative colitis. There are a number of drugs your doctor can prescribe to treat your specific symptoms. Some modify your immune system to better control ulcerative colitis, while others decrease inflammation in your gut. If you skip doses or don’t take the medication as prescribed, you will reduce its effectiveness and risk having a flare.
If you’re experiencing mild pain, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen. However, you may have to avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, which can increase pain and worsen symptoms.
Diet and nutrition
Although food doesn’t specifically cause ulcerative colitis, your diet can play a role in triggering (or easing) your symptoms. You may need to adopt a diet that’s low in salt, fiber, or fat or free of lactose or gluten. Ask your doctor if caffeine or carbonated beverages might worsen your symptoms, or if you should eat bland foods and avoid spicy dishes. Finally, if ulcerative colitis interferes with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, ask your doctor whether you should take a vitamin supplement.
Stress functions much like depression in exacerbating the pain and other symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Learning ways to manage stress through meditation, yoga, tai chi, or deep breathing may help relieve stress and, therefore, lessen your ulcerative colitis pain. You might also consider joining a support group, where you can find helpful advice and comfort in talking with others with ulcerative colitis. And if you experience consistent stress, you might consider seeing a mental health professional to learn coping strategies.
Some people with ulcerative colitis find that adding complementary and alternative therapies to their treatment plan can help lessen the frequency and intensity of their pain and other symptoms. These can include hypnosis, biofeedback, massage therapy, acupuncture, and acupressure.
“Alternative therapies like yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, and hypnotherapy have been shown to help,” Kane says. Discuss any alternative medicines with your doctor before proceeding so you’ll be aware of their pros and cons.
Surgery is a long-term treatment option for ulcerative colitis. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, between 23 and 45 percent of people with ulcerative colitis may require surgery at some point, in part because their symptoms are too severe or they are no longer responding to their medication.
Surgery options include a proctocolectomy (the removal of all or part of the colon and rectum), a colectomy (the removal of all or part of the colon), and an ileostomy (a surgically created hole in the abdomen). Although complications can occur after the surgery and it can take up to one year to recover, the Foundation notes that in most cases, the procedures are successful.
Additional reporting by Bernadette Young
5 Ways To Ease Ulcerative Colitis Pain
Ulcerative colitis is one of the chronic pain conditions that make up the category of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). It affects the digestive tract, but specifically is defined as causing inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the large intestines and the rectum. According to the CDC, over one million people suffer from some kind of IDB. This condition can be painful, debilitating, and wreak havoc on your everyday life. However, there are ways to help control ulcerative colitis pain and minimize the risk of flare-ups.
Where does ulcerative colitis pain come from?
Ulcerative colitis can be an unpredictable condition as the cause of it has yet to be uncovered. The illness is also associated with flare-ups, which can have unique triggers. Approximately 30% of people who are currently in remission will relapse in the next year.
It is believed that there is a genetic component that comes into play with this condition. Those with family members with ulcerative colitis are more likely to be afflicted by this condition. This disease can generally be found in any age group, but it is far more prevalent between the ages of 15 to 30, as well as 50 to 70. It is also believed that Caucasians are much more likely to develop this condition and the risk is even higher for those of Ashkenazi Jewish decent.
At one time, it was believed that ulcerative colitis was caused by stress and diet. Today, researchers believe these can be a trigger, but they no longer think it is a direct cause. Most studies are focused on searching the immune systems for a root cause for this condition. It is thought that the immune system might inadvertently attack the healthy cells in the GI tract when trying to fight off foreign invaders, which causes inflammation.
Ulcerative colitis is often confused with Crohn’s disease as they both affect the gastrointestinal tract and are classified as an IBD. While these aliments are similar, Crohn’s disease is distinctly different as it affects the entire GI tract from mouth to anus rather than being limited to certain parts of it. Oftentimes it can be difficult for a doctor to distinguish between these two conditions and the diagnosis of indeterminate colitis is used.
What to look for when you have ulcerative colitis pain
Attacks from this condition vary greatly depending on the person, so it is important to know what a flare-up is to you. It can also affected by the severity of the inflammation as well as where in the large intestine it is.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe. They can slowly build or come on suddenly without warning. It is important to monitor this condition periodically as it can get worse over time even with treatment.
Some of the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood or pus in stool
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Frequent, uncontrollable bowel movements
There are other difficulties that can happen with this chronic condition. Some of these complications include rupture of the bowel, profuse bleeding, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, severe dehydration, and inflammation of the skin, joints, and eyes. The risk of colon cancer increases as well as the possibility for blood clots in veins and arteries.
Five tips for dealing with ulcerative colitis pain
There are ways to combat the pain that comes along with ulcerative colitis flare-ups. However, it is always best to get treatment from a doctor as they are most likely to efficiently and safely resolve your symptoms.
Here are five strategies you can use to help relieve symptoms and avoid a flare-up in the first place.
1. Watch what you eat
Scientists have ruled out that the root cause of ulcerative colitis pain is food-based, but it is still widely believed that diet can cause flare-ups and intensify symptoms. Proper nutrition, such as a reduction in salt, fat, lactose, or gluten, plays a substantial part in reducing overall symptoms and flare-ups. Even during flare-ups, though, you should still eat as avoiding food can cause malnourishment and dehydration.
Keeping a food journal can be immensely useful when trying to identify food sensitivities. It will help track the categories of food that are possible triggers and then a specific diet plan can be crafted to best suit the patient.
2. Be diligent and careful with medication
A physician will usually prescribe an anti-inflammatory and medication to help with an overactive immune system with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. This medication is vital to fight off flare-ups and missing a dose can be a trigger all by itself.
When taking medication for this condition, it is always wise to consult a doctor. Certain over-the-counter medications, like NSAIDs, can exacerbate ulcerative colitis as well as cause other issues.
3. Try to dial down the stress
Stress can make every condition worse and ulcerative colitis is no different. Try incorporating stress-busting techniques daily, like deep breathing and meditation, to keep your levels low. Other great ways to not get overwhelmed is to join a support group or talk to a mental health professional.
Even small workouts can have amazing health benefits especially when fighting stress and depression. Creating an effective exercise program can also help normalize bowel functions. Be more active each day and try walking, swimming, or biking for a good low-impact routine.
5. Put together an emergency kit
Having an emergency kit is important as it can help you avoid embarrassing situations, especially when you are at work or school. You can include items such as underwear, pants, deodorizer, and baby wipes in this kit to help you in most situations.
You may never use this kit, but just having it may bring some mental relief, which can help reduce overall stress and pain levels.
Ulcerative colitis pain is a complex disorder. What techniques or strategies do you use to manage ulcerative colitis pain when a flare-up happens?
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What Are the Complications of Ulcerative Colitis?
Colon Cancer. Although most patients with ulcerative colitis will not develop colon cancer, patients with ulcerative colitis are at a 2 to 5 fold increased risk of developing colon cancer compared to persons without ulcerative colitis. Researchers believe the increased risk of colon cancer is related to chronic inflammation in the colon. In order to detect colon cancer at an early stage, most patients with ulcerative colitis will need to undergo colonoscopies on a regular interval that is more frequent than for patients without ulcerative colitis. The risk of colon cancer may be even higher in individuals who have a condition of the liver called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) or with family members who have had colon cancer. All patients with ulcerative colitis should discuss the timing and frequency of colonoscopy with their gastroenterologist.
Surgery. Most patients with ulcerative colitis will not require surgery. However, some patients may not respond to medications or have other severe symptoms that require removal of the colon. Removal of the colon is the closest thing to a “cure” for ulcerative colitis because unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis does not affect other parts of the digestive system and should not recur after complete removal of the colon. After removal of the colon, patients may require either an ostomy (bag), or reconstructive surgery, referred to as a “J-pouch” or ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA). The choice of these options is between the patient and the surgeon as each option has its’ advantages and disadvantages.
Patients with ulcerative colitis may have symptoms in parts of their body outside of the digestive system.
Joints. There are forms of arthritis and back pain that are related to ulcerative colitis. Some of these conditions improve with medications for the digestive symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The use of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin may increase the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Patients with ulcerative colitis should speak with their gastroenterologist before using these medications.
Eyes. Some patients with ulcerative colitis develop inflammation in the eyes, called iritis or uveitis. Iritis may results in redness or eye pain and may fluctuate with the severity of the digestive symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Uveitis may results in severe eye pain and loss of vision. Patients with ulcerative colitis should see an eye doctor on a regular basis and report any changes in their vision to their doctor immediately.
Skin. There are two conditions related with ulcerative colitis, erythema nodosum and pyoderma gangrenosum. Erythema nodosum consists of painful red bumps under the skin that may develop when the ulcerative colitis flares; these lesions will often respond to the medication for ulcerative colitis. Pyoderma gangrenosum consists of skin ulcers that may form either with or without a flare of ulcerative colitis digestive symptoms.
Other Complications. Other complications of ulcerative colitis disease include kidney stones, a liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), and malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients.